Which 20th century composers will still be delighting audiences in 300 years' time, as Handel, Mozart and Beethoven do today? Though the earlier composers, like Stravinsky and Shostakovich, were pushing the boundaries of classical music, their compositions were still recognisably related to the work of their predecessors. And, more importantly, music lovers wanted to listen to their work. But as composer Howard Goodall points out, classical music soon 'began a perilous journey into an arid form of modernism that the mainstream audience couldn't, or didn't want to, follow'.
By the 1920s, popular music entered the process, and songs that were catchy and entertaining, though often banal in their simplicity, began to rival classical compositions in their complexity and sophistication. This transformation, says Howard Goodall, was kick-started by Cole Porter, a musician who was part of a generation of gifted composers that created and developed the musical – one of the seminal American art forms of the 20th century.